Back when I drank colas, Pepsi was my go to beverage. I drank Pepsi at least 3-4 times a day, from my high school days up to maybe 5-6 years ago. I loved the stuff, especially from a fountain. Mmmmmm!
Coke was not my beverage, always Pepsi.
One day I stopped drinking Pepsi, cold turkey, because I decided it wasn’t good for my stomach. No doctor’s orders, no major medical issue. Just a common sense decision for me.
If you still drink it, please enjoy one for me because it tastes great.
So this week when the controversy erupted over a new Pepsi ad featuring Kendall Jenner, I was immediately interested because it was Pepsi. Then I was interested because the world was losing its mind about Pepsi being insensitive and tone deaf to social issues.
I’m going to blow right past that last part about Pepsi being socially insensitive, thus having to avoid reminding people that almost every brand is only as interested in an issue or position (social or otherwise) if they think it will somehow help them make money or save money.
Rather, I’m going to go to the lessons in this debacle that can be learned by voiceover talents because, really, nothing else matters. 😉
- Lesson #1 ALL VOICE TALENTS ARE KENDALL JENNER
No, we’re not really attractive and wearing Victoria Secret underwear on stages. Only some of the voice guys do that. Allegedly!
But we, like Kendall, are given a script to follow, we agree with the concept, are unsure of how it will all turn out but have faith in the producers and directors we work with that they will perform professionally and responsibly. With that faith in hand and our God-given talents, we perform the job to the best of our abilities.
Sometimes the finished production is a masterpiece that we are proud to have our voice (if not our face) associated with. Sometimes it is so terribly produced and embarrassing that we are ashamed to even cash the check.
There are risks in every job and for voice talents and on-screen performers, that’s one of ours. Rarely when the finished project goes badly is it our fault and in this particular case, it’s not Kendall Jenner’s fault either. Note to KJ: cash the check kid, the embarrassment will fade and you’ll be fine.
- Lesson #2 VOICE TALENTS DO NOT CONTROL CONTENT
Copywriters, executives, directors and producers get input into scripts, visuals, music and even what voice to use on commercials and narrations. The talent just performs as directed. Many a voice talent can tell you horror stories of a script that had such amazing potential but must have been “committeed” to death after the talent heard or saw the finished project. But their voice was still in there and there was nothing left to do but quickly and quietly move on to the next project. Note to KJ: do that. Move on to the next job. But if SNL or Kimmel calls you to do a spoof ad…if it’s written well, consider doing it.
- Lesson #3 COMMERCIALS AND NARRATIONS HAVE NOT YET CURED CANCER OR ENDED FAMINES
Voice talents and actors perform our work to the best of our abilities and we take our jobs seriously because we like the responsibility established when clients and brands entrust us to perform.
But let’s not take ourselves TOO seriously.
We love and respect our voice acting and on-camera acting professions because they are noble ones, but our work has little (not none but little) significant impact on our world. We educate, we inform, we lobby, we sell, we entertain.
But our work is highly unlikely to prevent or cause the end of the world.
This Pepsi ad wasn’t so much insensitive as it was just…a crappy ad. That point has nothing to do with any talent shown in the spot.
The visual message of this Pepsi ad tried to commercialize the nation’s highly charged opinions (bad starting point) into a marketable, happy, non-political spot. The only nice thing I can envision for the brand on that point is that Pepsi may have meant well.
But the spot failed well beyond people’s hurt feelings. And those failings are the reasons the spot should have never aired, beyond the politically charged subtext.
The spot didn’t influence the audience, it didn’t build up the brand and most importantly —above everything else…it didn’t sell any soda. Had that spot run for a year, I doubt it would have move any cans off the shelf.
Pepsi’s job is not to bring about peace. The product satisfies a physical thirst. Sell THAT guys!
Capturing the modern zeitgeist may have been Pepsi’s objective, tying the brand in with the target audience’s desire/demand for justice and equality.
They just forgot to sell the soda.
And selling the soda, not selling world justice, is Pepsi’s only real job.
That’s our job too.